Hippie clothes at Riverhills Elementary by
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(7 Stories)

Prompted By What We Wore

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The fashion for “maxi” (full-length) and “midi” (below-the-knee length) skirts made it to suburban Florida in the late 60s. Although Riverhills was a public school with no other dress code, we were told that midis and maxis were forbidden, with no explanation given. Now I understand that that rule was an attempt by nervous administrators to keep out the rebellious spirit of the teenagers who were wearing those clothes. But in fourth grade,  I just thought  the ban on longer skirts was silly, since it was “minis,” the super-short skirts, that were considered indecent. How could clothing that was more modest be problem? The prohibition gave me the idea of wearing the outlawed outfits, and I had the desire because my older sister wore maxis, and because I wanted to show off a little.

At that time, my older cousin Diane had been suspended from her school for wearing a skirt that she’d made out of a pair of cut-off jeans. It was apparently too short and too creative, and she was punished by being sent home. (Note: Diane went on to become a menswear designer and runway model, so there, Florida public schools!) Impressed by my cousin, and eager to join the ranks of the outre, I convinced one of my friends to join me in wearing long skirts to school one day.

On Sunday, we went through my “dress-up box” and selected our next day’s clothes. My friend chose a full-length reddish skirt, and I picked a lacy, stiff, and below-the-knee black one, something that had long ago belonged to my mother. Of course it was big on me and the waistband kept slipping down, but I could pin it into place, and it was impressively long and unusual. It brushed oddly against my legs as I walked to school. My friend and I approached the side door, full of excitement and glamour. People were looking at us! Someone said something about maxi-skirts, and I said, “It’s a midi!”

Within seconds of entering the building, we were spotted and stopped. A tall, scandalized teacher, not our own, spotted us in the hallways and told us we had to go home and change. She didn’t even say why — she knew we knew. I never got the pleasure of seeing my classmates’ reaction to my skirt, and I never got to test my own teacher’s tolerance. Deflated, I went home and put on something normal, and went back to school to learn whatever dull lessons I was supposed to learn that day.

 

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Gillian Kendall’s early fashion-model career having been thwarted, she became a writer instead. Www.gilliankendall.org

Profile photo of Gillian Kendall Gillian Kendall
Gillian Kendall is an American-Australian writer who has lived in five countries and eight states. She has been a barmaid, editorial assistant, English professor, tech writer, and parliamentary reporter. She’s called herself a feminist ever since she heard the term at Douglass College, the women’s branch of Rutgers University. The label has gotten her into a few arguments and once landed her a job at "Mademoiselle." She lives in Florida and does all sorts of writing: travel and nonfiction journalism, as well as fiction, essays, and memoirs. gilliankendall.org


Tags: elementary school, fashion, hippies
Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman says:

    Outlawing maxis and midis? I can’t fathom the message they were trying to impart. I salute you for being brave enough to challenge the system, however briefly.

    Nicely told. I think you got the last laugh. Did you really have a “dress-up box?”

  2. Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau says:

    Good for you for trying to challenge this rule. They never told you why? Three inches about the knee wasn’t allowed at my school, but not the longer skirts. Can’t imagine why.

  3. Profile photo of Patricia Patricia says:

    I’m impressed that you attempted this revolt in the fourth grade! I got sent home once from high school for wearing a pair of shorts under a short (matching) dress. Weren’t we scandalous?

  4. Profile photo of rosie rosie says:

    I was always a little jealous of the slightly younger kids in the school district where I grew up because everyone started wearing jeans and hippie clothes soon after I graduated. While I was in high school I had a beautiful friend who always wore short short skirts and was frequently asked to kneel (not in prayer) to see if he skirt touched the floor. I think she finally did get sent home one day. Another friend was sent home for wearing sandals…oh the scandal.

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